I have composed many melodies to help with teaching and learning ear training. One of the foundational elements of Kodály pedagogy is the notion of teaching patterns from songs that you know, songs that you can sing easily. While in Kodály, these songs are generally folks songs to support learning the musical mother tongue, I believe that melodies composed with a specific purpose can train the ear quite well. You might call them etudes, but I prefer not to because that feels too serious!
How to Use 18 Extremely Easy Melodies
I created these melodies for you to use individually, in a music classroom, or in ensemble sight singing, and you can use them in a number of ways.
Levels of Difficulty
These 18 melodies are all quite easy, yet mastering them and the tonal relationships they embody is a critical foundation for more advanced ear work. They are part of a set of over 100 melodies that work together to build your melodic perception from beginner to advanced, and they are mirrored by the levels in the game Tone Hole.
Each set of three melodies encapsulates a level of difficulty in hearing and identifying tones within the scale:
Melodies 1 – 3, “First Step”: do & re in alternation
Melodies 4 – 6, “Ti Totalled”: do & ti in alternation
Melodies 7 – 9, “Third Time Charm”: step-wise motion between do, ti & re
Melodies 10 – 12, “Easy Little Lamb”: step-wise motion between do, re & mi
Melodies 13 – 15, “You Are Not Sleeping”: step-wise motion between do, re & mi, allowing the skip between do & mi
Melodies 16-18, “Be Forgot”: step-wise motion between ti, do, re, & mi, allowing the skip between do & mi
On Your Own
You can play and sing these melodies on your own as well as with others. You can sing these melodies on your own, and I highly recommend that you sing against a drone. (On any instrument that allows you to sing at the same time, sustain a C while singing the melodies.) Singing with a tonic (the home note) drone reinforces your feeling of in tune-ness and you will hear each tone in a rich way that sinks deep into your memory.
For two part exercises, challenge yourself to play one part on an instrument and sing the other part. I wrote them with lots of unison moments so your ear and voice can reinforce each other.
With A Group
I sized the pages so you can project them in front of a classroom, which is how I teach sight singing at the Osher School of Music. This allows you to use a pointer to ensure all eyes are focused on the same music. (I hate spending time explaining where we are on the page, and I love pointing to individual notes and features like time signature and clef.)
Notice that every third melody is labeled “warm up” and includes a series of notes without any written rhythm. This allows you to walk through the tones slowly and carefully, tuning each one as you go. Teachers: you can use a pointer to indicate which note to sing.
The two variations that follow each warm up melody apply rhythm to the series of tones, which (aside from being a great composition challenge that I encourage you to try!), also enables learners to master the pitch content of a melody in the warm up and then focus on rhythm, musicality and intonation in the follow-up melodies.
Notice also that each melody appears twice: once with solfege given and once without. This is in the spirit of Denise Bacon’s wonderful Easy Two-Part Exercises, where the melodies are written once in stick notation and once in staff notation. We always want to be mindful of all learning styles and gradually introduce not only music of greater difficulty, but also ways of learning music on increasingly higher levels of challenge.
Notice that I distinguish difficulty from challenge, where you can elevate the level of challenge by varying leadership roles and voices-on-a-part without increasing the difficulty of the repertoire itself. This is a principle I apply to all my teaching, whether at the elementary or college level. Consider these few variations of challenge:
Levels of Challenge
• Leader sings, ensemble echoes.
• Leader points (out of time), ensemble sing.
• Ensemble reads on the staff, reading the solfege as lyrics.
• Ensemble reads on the staff, taking the solfege from the staff position of the notes
For 2-part exercises:
• Ensemble sings one part, leader sings other part.
• One at a time, ensemble members join leader group.
• Ensemble sings both parts, leader plays both parts.
• Ensemble sings both parts, leader plays nothing.